The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

Hasidism: Writings on Devotion, Community and Life in the Modern World

Cover of HasidismAriel Evan Mayse and Sam Berrin Shonkoff, editors

A vibrant and polyphonic set of Hasidic confrontations with the modern world

Hasidism has attracted, repelled and bewildered philosophers, historians and theologians since its inception in the 18th century. In “Hasidism: Writings on Devotion, Community, and Life in the Modern World,” Ariel Evan Mayse and Sam Berrin Shonkoff present students and scholars with a vibrant and polyphonic set of Hasidic confrontations with the modern world. In this collection, they show that the modern Hasid marks not only another example of a Jewish pietist, but someone who is committed to an ethos of seeking wisdom, joy and intimacy with the divine.

While this volume focuses on Hasidism, it wrestles with a core set of questions that permeate modern Jewish thought and religious thought more generally: What is the relationship between God and the world? What is the relationship between God and the human being? But Hasidic thought is cast with mystical, psychological and even magical accents, and offers radically different answers to core issues of modern concern. The editors draw selections from an array of genres, including women’s supplications; sermons and homilies; personal diaries and memoirs; correspondence; stories; polemics; legal codes; and rabbinic responsa. These selections consciously move between everyday lived experience and the most ineffable mystical secrets, reflecting the multidimensional nature of this unusual religious and social movement. The editors include canonical texts from the first generation of Hasidic leaders up through present-day ultra-orthodox, as well as neo-Hasidic voices and, in so doing, demonstrate the unfolding of a rich and complex phenomenon that continues to evolve today.


"[A] significant addition to The Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought. While numerous volumes of Hasidic texts translated into English already exist, Mayse and Berrin-Shonkoff have presented a historically contextualized cross-section of Hasidic literature, each with a brief introduction, including relevant annotations and notes...Especially welcome is the attention to gender, and the role of women, in Hasidic life and letters. An indispensable resource for those interested in Hasidism and its role in Modern Jewish Thought." —Shaul Magid, Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

"This source anthology spans Hasidic literature from the earliest generation of the mass spiritual movement through present-day writers, all occupied with a set of central questions. Principally: What is the relationship between God and the world and between God and humanity and the human individual? The final section is to be noted for its inclusion of more recent Hasidic women writers." New and Noteworthy Books, Tradition Online

About the Editors

Ariel Evan Mayse is assistant professor at Stanford University and holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Studies from Harvard University and rabbinic ordination from Beit Midrash Har'el in Israel. He is the author of From the Depth of the Well: An Anthology of Jewish Mysticism and coauthor with Arthur Green of the forthcoming A New Hasidism: Branches.

Sam Berrin Shonkoff is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He is the editor of Martin Buber: His Intellectual and Scholarly Legacy. His book on Buber's interpretations of Hasidic sources is forthcoming.